Growing up in Pueblo, Rocky DeVencenty was the kid at the airport fence who watched his dad fly out of the old Pueblo airport near the state fairgrounds, dreaming of the day he could become himself. same driver.
Not only did DeVencenty realize that dream, but he launched a successful aircraft charter business that started 40 years ago. On Saturday, he capped off his career as the first Puebloan inducted into the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame.
“It was an incredible honor, especially when I looked at all the inductees over the last few years and they were astronauts and space shuttle pilots and names that I grew up with who were just giants of industry,” DeVencenty said. “It has been the most humbling experience to join this distinguished group of people.”
Reflecting on the journey that led to his induction, DeVencenty said he “stood on a lot of shoulders” of those who helped him. It was his father, Aldo, who first sparked his interest in flying.
Fresh out of the United States Navy, Aldo attended the civilian pilot training program through Pueblo Community College. He did not work in aviation, but became a blue-collar worker and supervisor at the brickyard.
From the “kid at the airport fence” to a 1975 Pueblo County High School graduate who took his first solo flight at age 18, DeVencenty said he was determined to turn his hobby into a business. He started working for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and refueling planes for a company called Pueblo Air.
This job landed him a credit card with a $300 limit, which he quickly maxed out after seeing an ad in the Thrifty Nickel that read, “Learn to fly for $15 an hour.”
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How DeVencenty’s charter flight business took off
By the time DeVencenty was 21, he earned his first pilot’s license. He and his high school girlfriend, Jamie, then embarked on the adventure of opening their business, Travelaire Service, offering charter flights from Pueblo Memorial Airport.
DeVencenty soon learned by glassy eyes and slick posture behind the bankers desk that at age 22, he wasn’t going to get a loan to buy his first plane.
Enter Dr. Ralph Kelly, an orthopedic surgeon, who agreed to co-sign with DeVencenty on his first turboprop plane.
The DeVencentys also got a boost from the late Raymond Monroe, who, as airport manager, agreed to help out by renting them an 8-by-8-foot office in the terminal for free in their first year of business. activity in 1982.
In 1995, Travelaire Service grew by leaps and bounds when Sam Brown became a partner and purchased five Learjets to add to the fleet.
“At one point we had seven Learjets from probably 1997 to just before the COVID pandemic hit,” DeVencenty said.
The company also operated out of a 10,000 square foot hangar at Pueblo Memorial Airport. His first client, Ray Kogovsek, a Pueblo congressman who served in the State House and the Senate before representing Colorado in the United States House of Representatives, really helped the company.
“Thanks to Ray Kogovsek, we ended up piloting Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Ben Nighthorse Campbell. We’ve piloted a lot of stars like (singers) Neil Diamond and Toby Keith,” DeVencenty said.
He vividly remembers flying comedian Jerry Seinfeld in New York City the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As one of the few civilian pilots allowed to fly at that time, he remembers the rubble of the twin towers “still smoking”.
But perhaps his most important work has been as a contract pilot on Flight for Life missions.
For 15 years, he served as a fixed-wing pilot for Colorado Springs Memorial Hospital, helping transport premature babies from rural airports south of Denver to north of Albuquerque to neonatal care units.
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He also cherishes the days when he can slap a magnetic sign on his plane that reads “Heroes Aboard” as he flies military veterans from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana for medical treatment on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Along the way, DeVencenty earned a helicopter pilot’s license and participated in search and rescue missions and other assignments for the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. “(Sheriff) Kirk Taylor wrote a beautiful letter of support for my nomination,” DeVencenty said, pointing out that it was letters like Taylor’s that made him realize “you have no idea how far you’ve come.”
DeVencenty’s family members have been an integral part of the business. He taught his brother, John, and his son, Brock, to fly and both flew with him commercially. He even taught his wife to fly and although she doesn’t fly charters, she “has been my wingman all along – she’s done all the hard work to keep the business running”, he said. declared.
Now DeVecenty’s daughter Natalia, 22, is also a pilot and helps out with the business. These days, Travelaire Service is down to two planes and the DeVencentys also recently sold Flower Aviaton, a fixed-base operation they had run since 2014.
“It was the trip of a lifetime, a great ride,” DeVencenty said of his career.
He is thrilled that he was crowned on Saturday with a charter bus trip to Denver with 50 friends and family on board to attend the banquet and celebrate his induction.
When DeVencenty and other pilots think about why they like to fly, he says they tend to mention reasons like, “It’s freedom, or they like being able to see Earth from up there or closer to God. This resets your compass.”